tv Eliot Cohen Discusses The Big Stick CSPAN February 12, 2017 12:15am-1:09am EST
professor and present ceo of the budgetary assessment and it's my pleasure to welcome you here for a discussion of this book, "the big stick" the limits of soft power and the necessity of military force. what we are going to do is because they author always should have the last word even if he doesn't we will give him the last word so what i'm going to do is first turned to my colleague dr. eric edelman practitioner in residence here and counselor to budgetary assessments, for his comments. i will turn to my other friend and colleague hal brands professor global affairs for his comments and then we will turn to the author, to eliot and open
the floor to you for your questions and go from there. so with no further ado. >> tom, thank you. it's great to be here. i think it's important to remember the important part of a book event is to sell looks for the author so all of you need to get a copy of "the big stick" particularly art television audience. you need to get a copy of the "the big stick" available on amazon and it's a very important but particularly at this point in time. we are meeting today on groundhog day and i think that's very apropos. either way those of you who don't know punxsutawney phil saw his shadow so we are in for another six weeks of winter. but the movie groundhog day is one of my favorite movies. those of you have seen it know
that bill mary wakes up everyday and it's groundhog day again. in some sense i think that's a metaphor for what professor cohen's writing about because it seems every so often the united states needs to relearn the lesson that military power is important. we have had to relearn that lesson after world war ii and after korea and vietnam and i think we are going to have to relearn it again after the last 15 years. in some sense that's the subject of professor cohen's book and essay now lapsed diplomat having been a practitioner for 30 years i certainly associate myself with the comments that george kennan made although he's not my favorite foreign service officer but he is sort of the archetype of the diplomat and a 1946 addressing the national war college he said you have no idea
how much it contributes to the general politeness and pleasantness of diplomacy when you have a quiet armed force in the background. the mere existence of those forces he said is probably the most important single instrumentality in the conduct of u.s. foreign policy. i thoroughly agree with kennan. that's not to say one wants to use those forces promiscuously and sometimes people think the foreign service wants to do it but it does mean that; non-of effective diplomacy is the availability of usable military power. if you need any better example of that i would argue the fact was important was diplomacy that former secretary kerry engaged in over in syria over the last year and a half under the obama administration would be exhibit
a. professor cohen begins his book, this book is really buy that way about more than the use of military power and importance of hard power. it is really a book about the role of the united states and the international system and why hard power and the alliances which it sustains are a crucial part of that role. and i think he makes an excellent case about the importance of that role. he makes an excellent case about why the united states can still afford to play that role and in fact must play that role and the challenges that we face and the multiplicity of challenges in the form of a rising china come in the form of russia, the continuing challenge of jihad is some and a danger of fragile and failing states to the
international order and how only u.s. military power along with other instruments of national power can address those challenges. and he concludes the book just to give you a sense of what you will read if you take my advice and go out and buy it is also some very good propositions about how one ought to think about the use of force because as i said i don't think i or he would argue that the promiscuous use of u.s. military power is called upon. the challenges that he describes and i will end on this note and turn the floor over to my colleague hal brands con the challenges he describes in asia and europe to me are very reminiscent and i think he agrees with this in the book supports this of the kinds of
challenges that are faced in the interwar period. i wanted to conclude -- conclude my remarks with a quotation from winston churchill's book on the gathering storm which i think speaks to both what professor cohen addresses in this book and also the current moment. it's his purpose as someone who lived and acted during that period to shell out easily the tragedy of the second world war could have been prevented how the wicked was reinforced by the weakness of the birchers have the structure and habits of the democratic unless their world into larger organisms lack the elements of persistence and conviction which can alone give security to humble masses how even in matters of self-preservation no policy is
pursued for 10 or 15 years at a time. we shall see out the councils prudence and restraint may become the prime agents of mortal nature and how the middle course adopted for safety and acquired life may be the bulls-eye of disaster. we shall see how absolute is the need of a broadcast of international action pursued by many states and, in across the years respective of the ebb and flow of national politics. >> thank you tom. it's a great pleasure to be here to have the chance to offer some comments on what is really a good book by a colleague and a friend. i could go on at some length about the virtues of the book but all you have to do to get a sense of that is to read the glowing reviews that have been written everywhere from "the new york times" to "the wall street journal" to "the weekly standard" to get a sense of how good it is. frankly that wouldn't be much fun anyway so in the interest of
perhaps providing some fodder for discussion i'm going to briefly mention five pots of this book provoked to be one where i violently disagree with him and for which all have to do with the state of u.s. military power where i suspect we agree. the first one and this is truly in the best interest of academic hairsplitting. i take issue with the three paragraphs i didn't like. [laughter] opposed to the 225 pages that i did. he knows where i'm going with this. eliot slays the dragon of grand strategy. by pointing out that any sort of grand intellectual design or theory or blueprint or plan isn't going to survive very long in the real world. as someone who came with the
word grand strategy in the title i think your critique of grand schemes is well taken but i think you may actually be critiquing a strawman version of grand strategy. if you believe the grand strategy is a step is to plan or something that can be a seamless coherence to policy then you are right. i would say and i think most people who are in favor of a grand strategy think of something a little bit different perhaps more modest and a very basic set of symbols and ideas and priorities that guide how you interact in a chaotic world and even how you adapt in the face of unforeseen events. it's a sense of what is the most important to me as a country. what are the things that most threaten that and a general sense how can i apply what resources i have to get the good stuff? i think if you take that as the definition you can actually find
a lot of historical examples from fdr to reagan and beyond. furthermore i would point out i think the grand strategy as i can see is actually essential defend strategy in decision-making as you call for a new outline. i think you have to have a grand strategy in some conception of how foreign policy fits together to know what interests we are fighting for and which ones we aren't. it's difficult to apportion resources without some global conception of what you are trying to achieve and how those objectives relate to one another. the grand strategy is not the enemy of good military policy and strategy. it's actually the allied. the second and this gets to the area where i think we agree has to do with what you describe very nicely as the american hand. i love this chapter the book.
he does a great job of laying out the numerous drinks the united states has and how rumors of our demise have been much exaggerated the past and may very well be so today. i think the counterpoint to that and i imagine you would agree here although at the global level the united states has great advantages over any challenger at a regional level the picture is getting quite dreary. that's important because the key challenges and competition are not -- they originally scope. china's not challenging us on a global basis yet. the real challenge is in east asia and here and elsewhere the regional balance will become very problematic. i think is quite doubtful whether the united states and nato will defend the baltics and eastern europe with the resources they have in place and there's a question about whether we can defend taiwan today or other parts of east asia 10 years from now. there's this crucial global regional distinction that we
have to keep in mind and keep -- think about the question of how strong is the american hand. we also have challenges when it comes to global power certainly good in a key region where the rubber hits the road today i think we are actually headed for trouble if we are not there are ready. that leads to a third which the book addresses very nicely which is that when you look at these regional balances it's not just us and the adversary that make up the equation. u.s. allies are a big part of it too and u.s. allies added immensely to the strength of united states. that's good that most of them are in relative decline. you point out how the relative and absolute military capabilities of most of our european allies have basically fallen off a cliff. that is adding tremendously to the difficulties we face in our defense strategy. it's making for harder fights that we have to send a taiwan
and japan in the baltics overmatched by russia or china and its undercutting the ability of the allies to contribute meaningfully to expeditionary land places like the middle east at a time or instability is evoked. but we have seen over the past 20 years is the allies in all of our complex from bosnia to kosovo to isil they are brought progressively less to the table. because their strategies are always a coalition strategy that's a significant problem. it brings me to a fourth that your book really flushes out nicely which is the issues strategic solvency. if you put these issues together i think what emerges is we are rapidly approaching the point is strategic -- were we and our allies simply cannot do the things we have traditionally done that we have placed to do that we think we ought to be able to do. the united states does not have
an authentic regional work capacity anymore to give one example. this is really problematic as we now face a three-tier problem. if one believes this the military backed by military powers the back one of military order this brings up a very troubling question on where we are headed traits i think we are approaching a very stark choice and this is something that we are working on right now. we are either going to have to pay significantly more to maintain the defense strategy and the international order that we have enjoyed or become accustomed to doing less and guaranteeing less in and the world prayed obviously we should take the first story and you can do that without breaking the bank. we are willing to make adjustments with respect to entitlement spending and revenues but the gap is in our capabilities has become too big
with the intention it would be read by people from military affairs and don't normally think about it so i am pleased with "the new york times" review with the of family kind of issues it is organized like the bento box. [laughter] i will take that. and finally parted the scottish tradition is the spirited disagreement and we will do that also. from the previous remarks just wonder to things the riding of the of book is for me wanna the challenging parts was the chapter on call 15 years of war in part because the felt obliged to tackle the question of
buyback and the policies of which i myself have been engaged and advocating. and that was very tough to do a was not sure how well i did that because it meant something is that i no longer think and that is not easy but i have not then and the effect of this but it makes it harder to be a dispassionate observer an analyst. >> president daniels we have a seat for you right over here.
even a bigger problem now. you have to have some general principles that gives only limited guidance. i very much agree with you and i think one of the difficulties we could really screwed this up but particularly in the way that you describe i would it have been more optimistic as you say as the europeans have fallen off the cliff but
with japan coming up smaller but all of that takes effort . with my master instructor of diplomacy and i learned of the wisdom of charge shultz. and it is not natural. and to argue in the book with the big strategic challenges requiring different types of forces so i would of thought this was a much more precarious situation to say it will be
free. >> i will use privilege of the chair to ask the first question but the comment pertains to the first full paragraph and it is interesting. [laughter] and the question is very particular former and an offer you could put the book to bed so to be reasonably satisfied with their hats to be something that now on
"groundhog day" you wish you had added what is it that you could do with the director's cut? what would you have that isn't in the book quick. >> i would have emphasized a lot more that now we have the great debate triggered by the end of the cold war the consensus was growing out of world war two. that the united states will be a global power and set
did not pay for the first goal for. other people paid for that. casualty's were very low so over a decade where predominance was cheap so why even discuss it? so this is be delayed version of that you could see that with of bernie sanders candidacy and the sec can bought a one to have about that have to do with the nature of of policy that
people were really thinking about the first order of questions that is not what most people like us do. with the mass majority when you think about it with those technical concerns as opposed to first order questions and to talk in the effective way with the american people. weird just not used to doing that.
that is what we should be doing. >> also would like to be clear about my views. [laughter] >> you have a opportunity to clarify. >> we have time for questions. >>. >> speaking of our recently elected president with his contention so are invited conversation with australia so what could impact could he have? >> you have a lot of expertise that might take is
something like this. in the worst-case he does serious damage to alliance relationships may be not irreparable but these are the closest allies we actually thought alongside them more than the brits. they are culturally just like us these are the people you want to go to war whiff and the prime minister of australia but how will they react? i don't think that will have
the idea of the united states as steady as she goes and reliable sort of country but if you count on american it to be utterly predictable to be there for you in a crisis but it also takes aim at the united states as the exceptional great power that it tends to place a great amount of importance to exercise the power we don't have that turned over night
been writing about international affairs that is very consistent he is always complaining about trade of the guilty parties mexico in the '90s and now it is china as far as our allies go there is a bunch of exploiters outlined in the inaugural address. it is a fundamental view. second, it is also the case that this view will not be a cheap bid to the face of this president but also his predecessor to in his
interviews last several years made very clear that he thinks american allies are freeloading and getting a free ride from the united states and in many quarters you will see foreign leaders and governments will see is this more deeply rooted in the united states? and the third observation that i would make this back to a comment of secretary shultz and he is the living proof that academic international relations tend
to fall generally with the proposition that there is a natural propensity in the system and my experience in government that is not the case. most practitioners spend a lot of time and there are tender shoots that need to be taking care of in the garden at all time. and the impact could be notwithstanding to be institutionalized you might be surprised at how quickly these relationships have come unglued. >>.
>> i have not read the book obviously but to men with a hammer everything looks like a nail even just this century would better decisions have been made if the decision makers hadn't had such a big hammer? >> that is an interesting question. you probably look at particular decisions it would be better if they did not have the option but if you didn't have a really big military he might not have had peace in the cold war.
one of the points often made is you always know the troubles that you have but those that you have warded off. thank goodness the military has been quite powerful and we might find ourselves we begin to see what looks like if you don't have predominant military power for the most part they are careful to the substantial american forces. because there is something in that respect so bring about be office of the president.
>> what to advice would you have to manage what china is doing in the south china sea? is that closer to them? does that change the calculation? should read me using the military force to affect the outcome quick. >> we do have a large interest. in what is the subject of the of book rules based international order in the chinese territorial waters
that military strength vis-a-vis our regional conflicts i really don't think that is the case. if we would pull back from that. >> look through that once after 1945 from those international institutions from the point of view or prosperity with freedom of access to the freedom of the sea which we have advocated and what china is doing is
chipping away so it goes to the strength of our allies that is more fundamental that is the free flow of global commerce and prosperity of much of the world depends that is why we care. and the challenge that we face some of the rising regional powers or declining regional powers for to completely dominate with a
series of slices that chip away at that foundation. as china military raises the reclamation projects so if you put the anti-aircraft missiles to you take them all the and? -- with the massive military response. is that to be enough? three? ten? one hundred? what if the air defense information's own you can no longer fly over. this is a challenge that we face. >> i am not sure what
pulling back actually means in the context to have territory american citizens represented in congress all the way back to glom. not the of realistic. >> adjust to brief points we need to rediscover our imagination of of a tragic what does that look like we have been blessed to have this order over 70 years it is hard for people to understand what can happen when things go wrong. everything of the importance of the south china sea for any invitation it is
important to have a firm idea what you're trying to accomplish and use a level of coercion necessary. i am all for taking a harder line with china you will deny china access but what is that level of coercion necessary to bring that about? as long issue understand the consequences if the answer is no that will make you look foolish. >> i tend to agree with the consensus but to play devil's advocate may his
bluster from being shot short of military catastrophe the does demand more resources quick. >> there is no argument you can make to that effect. i suppose if i thought this was part of a shrewd and subtle strategy purses impulse control i could understand although i still think it is pretty risky i do think there is pour impulse control everybody takes it personally but does not moderate his language it was risky to begin with and now extremely out-of-control
second his old boss it really did not work but what scares me if people think the united states is not reliable and there is a serious chance is that from the good old days? you're likely to get a second. look at deals chileans are the japanese even in europe with those defense budgets. this is not the way to get it.
i don't think. >> there is an argument to be made that trump has put his finger on the real problem with respect to burden sharing but for him to solve what them that would require him not to be trump and i would also say that when they have success to provide reassurance to. >> your neck out then we have your back this is precisely the context in which it happens if the united states does less allies will have to do more.
>> i would argue historically it almost never worked if you have allies as alliance management and particularly with the secretary of state. no doubt we can get more out of the allies i think they have got end of message for the first time that even and invited dignitaries with the defense minister of faraway hughes said the got the message we heard president obama and president trump loud and clear we have to
step up our game. but for god's sakes we can only do that with american leadership. and i think it is important parts of the equation. but there are too caveat. not everything that we get is financial or military contribution both by giving access and the united states could not operate in asia without allies in japan.
with illegitimacy for actions around the world and that is not necessarily each can't - - tangible contributions it is almost universally true wonder to cases in a with one left good hand in terms of demographics and then to have realistic expectations and understand there would be limits but to have a
better division of labor over who contributes what to the common defense. and then have to get a lot more directive. then we have traditionally been in the past and do what we do your thought -- or as an ally into a common agreement. >> and the answer to summon your questions of what we will all do in is proceed